Paris: With no standout leader of the pack, French men progressed en masse to the third round at Roland Garros on Wednesday, scoring a perfect five out of five on their home clay.
Chief entertainer Gael Monfils brought the lively court Philippe Chatrier crowd to their feet with a 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-2 6-3 win against Argentine Diego Schwartzman and celebrated by scratching a smiley in the red dust.
Twelfth seed Gilles Simon begun the charge with a straight sets win over Martin Klizan. Long-time French talisman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, seeded 14 after a drop in ranking, thrashed Dudi Sela and there were surprise wins for eccentric Benoit Paire and Nicolas Mahut over Italian 28th seed Fabio Fognini and Latvia`s 2014 semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis respectively.
With Jeremy Chardy and Richard Gasquet in action on Thursday the French advance could continue as the country dreams of its first male champion since Yannick Noah in 1983.
Simon said the fact so many Frenchmen were ranked so closely diluted the pressure.
"(Tsonga) had the best career amongst the four of us (Simon, Gasquet, Tsonga, Monfils). Now, if you look at rankings, we are close to one another at the moment.
"It`s quite normal he had this status as the boss. Now, does he still have it? Well, we still expect a lot from Jo, because he`s a very powerful player who can do great things. We all know that. But now he realises it`s a burden."
Tsonga was superb against Sela but Monfils provided the antics for the crowd.
"He`s always been solid," Monfils said of Tsonga.
"I`m cool. I`m the joker. I like it. People like me as a joker, and it`s a very good, very comfortable position."
Monfils drew energy from his beloved Paris crowd when he saved two break points at 3-2 in the fourth set. He then went on to win five games in a row and Schwartzman never recovered.
Mahut said the hardest part of beating 24th seed Gulbis was concentrating. "When you play Ernests... he starts talking to the umpire, to the public, that`s a way for him, his way to stay focussed and stay in his match," said Mahut.
"Okay, he broke a racquet, but it`s difficult, you know. I thought he was going to serve, and then he starts talking to the birds, to the umpire, or who knows."
There was an animated atmosphere on Court Seven too where Paire beat the volatile Fognini. Rackuets were broken and a fight broke out in the stands.
"If there is a problem in the crowd, if there is a donkey walking across the court, I don`t care. I want to play my match," Paire said.